Summary and book reviews of Inside The Sky by William Langewiesche

Inside The Sky

A Meditation on Flight

By William Langewiesche

Inside The Sky
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  • Paperback: Aug 1999,
    255 pages.

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Book Summary

William Langewiesche's life has been deeply intertwined with the idea and act of flying. Fifty years ago his father, a test pilot, wrote Stick and Rudder, a text still considered by many to be the bible of aerial navigation. Langewiesche himself learned to fly while still a child. Now he shares his pilot's-eye view of flight with those of us who take flight for granted--exploring the inner world of a sky that remains as exotic and revealing as the most foreign destination.

Langewiesche tells us how flight happens--what the pilot sees, thinks, and feels. His description is not merely about speed and conquest. It takes the form of a deliberate climb, leading at low altitude first over a new view of a home, and then higher, into the solitude of the cockpit, through violent storms and ocean nights, and on to unexpected places in the mind.
In Langewiesche's hands it becomes clear, at the close of this first century of flight, how profoundly our vision has been altered by our liberation from the ground. And we understand how, when we look around, we may find ourselves reflected in the grace and turbulence of a human sky.

From Chapter One
The View from Above

After a century of flying, we still live at a moment of emergence like that experienced by creatures first escaping from the sea. For us the emergence has been given meaning because we can think about it, and can perhaps understand the nature of our liberation. Mechanical wings allow us to fly, but it is with our minds that we make the sky ours. The old measures of distance no longer apply, in part because we hop across the globe in single sittings, but also because in doing so we visit a place which even just above our homes is as exotic and revealing as the most foreign destination. This book is a travel book about that place, and it takes the form of a spiral climb. At the end it will arrive overhead of the point where now it begins, with the idea that flight's greatest gift is to let us look around.

At first I mean a simple form of looking around, and one that requires little instruction--just gazing down at the ordinary scenery ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

A realist who says he rejects early flier-author Antoine de Saint-Exupery's dreamy romanticism, Langewiesche is informative on aspects of the current commercial aviation scene, and his pared-down style conveys a refreshing humility and respect for flying.

Library Journal

Unlike other authors who write about flight and flying, Langewiesche covers a wide range of topics. He details his interesting philosophy of flying as he talks about the view from above from the various aircraft both large and small that he has flown. He gives a readable physics lesson on how airplanes turn and portrays the political side of flying as he takes a pilot's look at the organizational friction between the FAA and the air traffic controllers. He saves his best writing for a chapter on "storm flying," where pilot and crew draw upon their piloting skills and reserve of calmness under pressure to fly a small aircraft above, below, or through storms safely. His love of flying comes through in this chapter.

Publishers Weekly

Writing with poetic authority, he uses this "meditation" to unfold, partially, the mysteries of flight, and to recommend flight as a metaphor for understanding elements of the human condition. Occasionally, the metaphor seems only tangentially connected to the subject, though overall this is an enlightening, often riveting work....Part expose, part idyll, this is a meditation to savor.

Reader Reviews
Anonymous
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Read this book on your next commercial airline trip! Connect the aircraft's passenger headset, then tune the channel monitoring the radio transmissions between your pilot and the various ground controllers. Start requesting window ...   Read More

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